Pedal-electric VM45 velomobile lets riders cruise at almost 30 mph
Although cargo ebikes are often referred to as replacements for cars, they usually can't match an automobile's urban cruising speed, among other things. The VM45 four-wheeled velomobile comes very close however, with a top electric-assist speed of 45 km/h (28 mph).
So first of all, just what is a velomobile?
Well, it's typically a recumbent tricycle – or in cases like this, a quadcycle – covered in a full aerodynamic shell. That streamlined body makes the vehicle faster than an upright bicycle (on the flats, at least) plus it provides a decent amount of cargo space along with protection from inclement weather.
The VM45 is made by Czech mobility company Katanga, which builds the popular WAW velomobile and produces parts for the Velove Armadillo four-wheeler. It has been in the works since January 2021.
The vehicle's body/shell is made of a composite material consisting of aramid and carbon fibers in an epoxy matrix. A side-opening lockable hatch on top provides access to the cockpit, with a smaller downward-opening hatch in the rear providing access to the 350-liter (92-gal) cargo compartment.
The VM45's chain-drive drivetrain incorporates a 7-speed, auto-shifting, 750-watt Valeo motor/gearbox, which is claimed to augment the rider's pedaling power up to the previously mentioned 45 km/h – it also has a reverse gear. Its motor is powered by a 48V/1,240-Wh lithium-ion battery, which should reportedly be good for a range of up to 255 km (158 miles) in Eco assist mode.
Front and rear DNM coil-spring shocks provide 45 and 60 mm of travel, respectively. Stopping power is provided by 90-mm Sturmey-Archer drum brakes in front and 160-mm disc brakes in the back – the latter double as parking brakes.
Other features include a full front and rear lighting system (including turn indicators), an electric motorcycle horn, and dual side mirrors. The whole thing tips the scales at a claimed 79 kg (174 lb) – battery included – and rolls on four 20-inch 47-mm-wide spoked bicycle wheels. It can support a maximum rider/cargo weight of 121 kg (267 lb).
Katanga president Stephane Boving tells us that due to its relatively powerful motor and high top speed, the VM45 is legally considered a "light on-road quad" (not an ebike) in Europe. This means that the homologation process could take at least a year. For that reason, no preorders are being taken at this time.
That said, Boving states that he may offer a version with a 250-watt motor and a top speed of 25 km/h (16 mph), which could be on the market much sooner. He may also offer a model with no motor at all, leaving motor choice/installation up to the buyer. Rough estimates put the pricing of the non-motorized model at about €11,000 (US$12,108), with the motorized version going for €13,000 ($14,310).
For now, though, you can see the prototype in action in the video below – skip ahead to the 4:50 mark if you're the impatient type.